Friday, November 17, 2006


Does Dubai have too few or is it doing well in this regard? I have heard people complain that there aren't enough, that there is little else to do but go to the malls for daytime recreation. I would quite disagree with that sentiment. There are several parks, some old, some very new, some large, some small and most requiring but a small fee for entrance. Are there really enough, though? Why not?

Starting with one of the oldest and largest, Safa Park, the grounds cover several acres and include a large pond or two, with the itinerant paddle and row boats. There are open grassy fields, a variety of trees, children's play areas and all the normal accruements for a city park. It has recently been eclipsed in size by the new Za'abeel Park, split into two by a major thoroughfare and then again by a smaller one, each section connected to the adjacent by a wide foot-bridge designed for pedestrian and cycle traffic. There are also playing fields and an amphitheater. The park is landscaped with hills, streams and ponds--the largest one with the small pleasure craft. At night, indirect light sources and warmly lit water fountains, cast a multi-colored incandescent glow over the park.

There are two other large parks, set against the shore, with one running lengthwise along Dubai Creek for a good kilometer or two, and the other, about a kilometer in length in Jumeirah, at the Arabian Gulf. Both include wide-open grassy areas and collections of trees and shrubs, including flowering varieties. Creek Park has a high gondola ride running its length, while the beach at the Jumeirah park is broad with golden sand and calm, clear blue-green waters gently lapping the shore.

There are other smaller parks, and most venues include food stalls, barbecue areas, plentiful car parking, etc. Some have bike and running paths, with Za'abeel's extending several kilometers. Those who say there aren't enough parks just don't frequent the many and very nice ones that there are. The only valid complaint one could make is that these parks are not very accessible without a car. That, however, just reflects the nature of Dubai, having a very spread out metropolitan reach, with dense areas interspersed with many sparsely developed and even barren patches of land.


Some have noticed that the areas of new Dubai, which are being densely built up, lack any large parks. What these areas do have, however, are expansive man-made ponds, lakes and other water features that provide some sense of open space. True, the wide, grassy lawns with trees and play or picnic grounds are not there. However, these newer areas are developed in such a way as to include attractive landscaping among the villas and apartment towers, as well as along the roads. This is in contrast to older Dubai where the denser areas contain a profusion of buildings--small and large—interspersed with streets, lanes and parking lots.

That being said, some areas of new Dubai will, no doubt, have their larger parks in time. Unfortunately, the very densely built Dubai Marina will never get a large park, as there simply isn't any leftover space where towers are not being built. Despite this, at the heart of the Marina is its long man-made canal, designed with a meandering shoreline and stretching a length of 3.5 kilometers. It has a wide promenade along its entire perimeter, said to cover about 11 kilometer as it follows the bends in the shoreline.

So, while Dubai Marina won't have a grassy park, there will be plenty of opportunities to experience a sense of the wide open as one walks, jogs or Segways along the promenade—not sure whether or not cycling will be permitted. There may not ever be any fields to run about or kick a ball in, but every tower will have its fully-equipped gym for residents. Trees, for shade? The towers will be casting shadows a plenty.

For those who would still insist that there isn't enough greenery, word is that a massive new park will be constructed inland of new Dubai, which will be larger than the entire city of Paris. Whatever that city's size, this planned new park should completely satisfy anyone's need for green and open spaces. By that time, the complaint will surely be that there aren't enough unspoiled desert plots anymore.


So what is there to do in any of the many parks? For those who just can't sit still, there is cycling, jogging, power-walking, strolling… For water-lovers--swimming, boating, sunbathing… For families and groups—picnics and barbecues… For sports-lovers--football, volleyball, cricket, Frisbee… and more.

What can't be done? One will find neither alcohol, nor muggings! The parks are especially popular in the evenings and at night with families and kids kicking about at all hours. In the future, some parks will have wi-fi and there will be a number of amusement, educational and other themed-activities (for a fee) at the largest parks. The only thing, as far as parks go, that Dubai will probably be forever lacking are those tall, stately 100+ year-old trees that shed their leaves with the changing seasons.

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